The Role Of Money In Politics
no doubt about it Ė politicians need money. The average
Congressional campaign cost just over $1 million in 2002.
The average Senate campaign cost over $3 million. Even
local races now routinely cost tens of thousands of
dollars. This money is used to rent office space, buy signs
and bumper stickers, run TV and newspaper ads, and sometimes
hire campaign staff. Modern campaigns are not cheep, and
the reality is most of the time the candidate with the most
candidates donít have an extra million dollars burning a
hole in their pocket (and even if they do, they would prefer
not to spend it), this money must be raised from individual
citizens. Laws place strict limits on how much one person
can give to a campaign. For federal elections the limit is
$2,000 per election, while state and local limits vary.
Because of these limits, candidates must depend, not on a
few large checks, but on many small donations to fund their
campaign. Raising these small donations is one of the first
and most important projects a new candidate must undertake.
It is also
one of the least pleasant. For the average House race,
candidates must raise about $10,000 every week for two years
just to be competitive. Several recently retired members of
Congress have said that calling people to ask for money was
so unpleasant that they chose not to run again rather than
spend another two years raising money.
all this money buy? It does not buy votes. $2,000 isnít
enough to make it worth the risk for a politician, even if
they would consider it. Campaign contributions also do buy
you a say on the politicianís positions. The reality is
that there is money on both sides of just about every issue,
so politicians can find supporters regardless of what
position they take.
does buy is access. Politicians are very busy people.
Their time is extremely valuable, so they donít let just
anyone have it. People and organizations who contribute to
campaigns will receive preferential treatment when asking
for some of the politicianís time. This time can be used to
argue for your position on an issue, and you will be
listened too. The politician wonít necessarily agree with
you, but he or she will think about it.
is most people give money to candidates because they support
the candidate. Giving is generally based on a candidateís
past support for specific policies, not expectations of
therefore important not to over state the influence money
can have. Money is a means to an end for politicians, not
the end itself. The goal is getting re-elected, and money
is needed to accomplish this goal. But if voters disapprove
of who is funding a candidateís campaign, most candidates
will return the money before it costs them votes. The
ultimate goal is the vote Ė which makes the vote more
valuable. And if raising money begins to interfere with a
candidateís ability to win votes, the voters always take
02 June 2010